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Ever wondered what interesting and lucrative jobs are available to people not interested in enrolling in traditional colleges? Enter trade school jobs.
Trade schools offer an alternate path to highly skilled jobs featuring strong job security and demand. For many people, they are a path to a truly rewarding career with a price tag that will not break the bank.
Read on for our guide on the best trade school jobs and what to expect from them in terms of pay, training, and career prospects.
Why enroll in trade school instead of a four-year college?
Trade schools, also known as technical or vocational colleges, are postsecondary institutions that prepare students for specific jobs involving skilled, specialized labor. Some programs commonly taught at trade schools include:
Enrolling in a trade school offers benefits including:
More personalized learning experience
Faster education-to-employment timeline
These institutions may fit students who do not want to attend a four or two-year college and want to pivot directly to a specific job upon graduation.
Attending a trade school can train you for a lucrative, in-demand career on a short timeline.
10 best trade school jobs in 2022: Our picks
In selecting the best trade school jobs for 2022, we kept four main criteria in mind:
Appeal/applicability for students interested in tech, science, and mathematics
Appeal/applicability for students with strong critical thinking/analytical skills
Higher-than-average earnings compared to other jobs not requiring a conventional college degree
Short (less than two years) timeline from education/training to employment
The following list represents some of the most financially rewarding, engaging career paths available to trade school graduates.
Computer support specialists install, maintain, and repair the computer systems of organizations. You can find these technicians employed most commonly in computer systems design services, telecommunications, and finance.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 9% growth in computer support specialist employment from 2020-2030.
Diagnostic medical sonographers use medical imaging equipment to create images of internal organs and tissues. These images help physicians diagnose medical conditions and create treatment plans.
The BLS projects a 14% employment growth rate for diagnostic medical sonographers from 2020-2030. This occupation requires highly trained workers with critical thinking skills and basic tech proficiency.
Most diagnostic medical sonographers hold an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography. You can earn this degree in two years at a trade school or traditional university. Students with an existing medical background can earn one-year diagnostic medical sonography certificates.
Median salary: $60,040
Electricians install, maintain, test, and repair electrical power, communication, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.
The BLS projects a 9% growth in electrician employment from 2020-30. Electricians are in high demand due to the specialized and physically intensive nature of their work.
Most electricians start their careers by taking on an apprenticeship, but many others earn a one- to two-year certificate or associate degree from a technical school.
An apprenticeship takes one to two years to complete and entails 1,000-2,000 hours of on-the-job training. Typically a technical school, union, or non-union group arranges internships.
Median salary: $63,640
Electronics technicians assemble, install, test, maintain, and repair electronic equipment. These technicians commonly work in manufacturing, retail, and government positions.
The BLS projects 11,000 open electronics engineer positions per year from 2020-30 (a 2% growth rate).
You typically need an associate degree in electronic engineering, which you can obtain in about two years from a technical or two-year community college, to work as an electronic technician. Most trade schools also offer shorter, 9-12 month programs in basic electronics or electronic technology training.
Median salary: $50,630
Geological and hydrologic technicians operate the equipment that scientists and engineers need to extract and study Earth's natural resources.
The BLS projects a 9% employment growth rate for geological and hydrologic engineers from 2020-2030.
The highly specialized and hazardous nature of geological and hydrologic technicians' work means strong job security and high salary expectations.
You can become a geological and hydrologic technician by pursuing an associate degree in geological and hydrologic studies at a technical or community college. The degree usually takes two years to earn and entails one year of training at a supervised internship.
Median salary: $48,630
HVACR technicians install, repair, and perform maintenance on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.
The BLS projects an average of 38,500 HVACR job openings per year from 2020-30.
Becoming an HVACR technician involves completing a certification program at a trade school or community college, which usually takes 9-12 months.
Depending on the state, you may then be required to complete a one-year apprenticeship through a trade union or non-union association. In all states, HVACR technicians must pass a brief exam to be licensed to work.
Median salary: $56,230
Legal assistants assist lawyers with case research, organizing documents and files, and drafting legal documents.
The BLS projects a 12% employment growth rate for legal assistants from 2020-2030. Legal assistants are in high demand at law firms because they present a cheaper alternative to entry-level lawyers.
To become a legal assistant, you typically need at least a certificate or associate degree in paralegal studies from a trade school or community college. Some legal assistants start by earning a bachelor's in criminal justice, then earning a technical certificate in paralegal studies.
Median salary: $77,360
MRI technologists use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to take diagnostic images for physicians. In addition to operating equipment, MRI technologists also must inject patients with substances that help create readable images.
The BLS projects a 9% growth in MRI technologist positions from 2020-2030. These technologists' specialized work requires a high level of training along with strong communication, critical thinking, and tech literacy skills.
Most MRI technologists earn a science-related associate degree before enrolling in an American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists-accredited MRI technologist program.
MRI training programs typically take 9-12 months to complete and involve 1,000-2,000 clinical training hours.
Web developers create and maintain websites and web-based apps. Web development often appeals to workers with strong computer literacy and critical thinking skills.
The BLS reports that web developers can anticipate a 13% employment growth rate from 2020-2030. In other words, they're in high demand.
While some web developers hold computer science degrees, others start their career with a diploma from a coding bootcamp or a certificate from a trade school. It typically takes three to six months to earn a certificate or coding bootcamp diploma.
Developers without a degree typically need a strong coding portfolio to succeed.
Wind turbine technicians install, maintain, and repair the wind turbines used to convert wind energy into electrical energy.
The BLS projects a 68% growth in wind turbine technician employment from 2020-2030 — though that only translates to 6,900 open positions per year.
Wind turbine technicians are in high demand due to the growing adoption of renewable energy sources and the physically demanding, specialized nature of their work.
Most learn their trade by earning a certificate from a trade school or community college. It typically takes two years to earn a wind energy technology certificate or associate degree. Students receive onsite training under a certified technician's supervision.
How to land a job after graduating from trade school
After receiving the training you need at an accredited trade school, you can start trying to land a job. Peruse job search sites, your school's career center, or your local union to find job listings.